The beautiful Bougainvillea plant is a genus of tropical plants, thorny, shrub-like perennial vines of the Nyctaginaceae family.
Beautiful in a hanging basket and some growers have formed them as a bonsai.
The plants are native to South America and are available in more than 300 Bougainvillea varieties and a wide range of colors, such as:
- Shades of pink
But, there’s an interesting and a lesser-known fact about bougainvillea plants – what are often considered flowers are modified leaves called bracts.
Since the colorful bracts are immensely showy and encircle the tiny, white-colored real flowers, almost hiding them, they are often mistaken for flowers.
The plants have two distinctive growth cycles; a period of vegetative green growth and a growing season or blooming period.
Bougainvillea in South Florida does not bloom as heavy during the summer months (June – August) because of the long days and excessive rainfall.
Although, somewhere like Texas where it’s mostly hot and dry they grow beautifully.
Bougainvilleas are heavy feeders and need bougainvillea plant food regularly throughout the blooming season to ensure proper production of flowers.
They grow best in warm weather and need to be protected from frost and very cold weather.
The plants are known by different names in different parts of the world.
Some alternative names for bougainvillea are:
- Buganvilla (Spain)
- Pokok bunga kertas (Indonesia and Malaysia)
- Bugambilia (Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, and the Philippines)
- Jahanamiya (Arab World)
- Primavera (Brazil)
Best Fertilizer For Bougainvillea
A growing bougainvillea plant needs phosphate and nitrogen plant food to flower, so make sure to use a bougainvillea food containing these elements to ensure proper blooming.
A small amount of iron (chelated) can help your bougainvillea plants maintain their beautiful and vibrant colors.
Do not use a generalized fertilizer for bougainvillea species but a labeled fertilizer for bougainvillea.
To ensure abundant flowering plants and good overall health of plants, use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) in equal ratios, such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10, and don’t forget this when repotting.
If repotting make sure you dig up as much as the root ball as possible before moving.
It is critical to use a slow-release fertilizer on this houseplant because the excessive supply of nitrogen inhibits blooming and promotes new growth to be vegetative.
Following specialty plant food fertilizers are known to work best for bougainvillea plants:
- BOUGAIN (6-8-10)
- Dr. Earth Exotic Blend
Many plant experts and home gardeners also recommend using a hibiscus fertilizer, if a fertilizer specially formulated for bougainvilleas is not available.
Adding about a tablespoon of Epsom salt at the time of fertilization may also be beneficial.
When or How to Fertilize Bougainvillea
Feed your bougainvillea with a fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphate, once a month, during the bloomer period i.e., from early spring to mid-summer.
For bougainvillea vines growing in the ground, use half a cup of granular fertilizer per 4’ feet in height and lightly scratch it into the soil surface using a trowel or a hand cultivator.
Plant the water thoroughly after fertilizing, if potted make sure there are good drainage holes.
Use a half-strength, liquid plant fertilizer, and water-soluble fertilizer for plants growing in containers.
Dissolve one tablespoon of fertilizer in a gallon of water and water the potting soil mix.
Make sure to avoid too much water as Bougainvillea bloom and grow best when the soil is kept a little dry and too much watering will lead to root rot.
Bougainvillea care tip: Do not fertilize the species of this perennial flowering vine in fall and winter, if you live in a cool area, and reduce watering to a minimum too.
More on Bougainvillea Watering
If you live in the northern states, it’s too cold to grow bougainvillea in the Fall unless they’re housed in warm greenhouses
No Feeding Bougainvillea in Winter: Only resume feeding when the plant is returned to the outdoor, under full sun or direct sunlight, in the following spring.
Prune any suckers grown at the base of the plant or by pinching them off to encourage more growth at the top. Watch out for sharp thorns when pruning!
This is because the plants are not winter-hardy and become semi-dormant in cold weather.
Once the plant becomes established it’s drought-tolerant and they tend to bloom year-round in a warm climate.
USDA hardiness zone 10 – 11.
Fertilizing Young Bougainvillea
Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer on young plants until they have grown well and become established.
Once they are well-established and have significant vegetative growth, switch to a high-potassium fertilizer to encourage blooming.
Important: Never feed your bougainvillea plants when their root system is dry. If the soil is too dry and it’s time for fertilization, water the plant and then wait for one day before feeding.